The XC60 is something of a head-turner. That’s right, I’ve just described a Volvo as a head-turner. But is there more to the Swedish company’s latest compact SUV offering?
Volvos are seldom stylish – there have been some exceptions (P1800, C70, and to some extent the C30), but when someone says “Volvo”, the first image that pops into one’s head is that of a solid, boxy, and uninspiring car bristling with safety features. The XC60 is evidence that Volvo is looking to change those perceptions. The strong shoulder lines, LED daytime running lights, bold grille and gently-arcing roof of the XC60 concept have not been diluted on the production model. This, along with dramatic swathed brake light towers at the rear and a purposeful track manage to lift this car above the somewhat dour styling of its larger stable mate, the XC90.
The interior is similarly attractive, featuring a thin slither of facia hang-down finished in genuine wood (not the ghastly “woodola” that afflicts many premium SUVs). The controls are laid out in a logical fashion, and a wealth of adjustment for the driver’s seat makes finding a comfy pew a cinch. There are also a number of neat details, such as the Volvo emblem in the front door sills that glow a cool blue at night, and the “X” pattern on the two tone seat covers – although the banana yellow hue of the seats in our test unit would not be my first choice.
The 3,0T is powered by Volvo’s turbocharged 3,0-litre, straight-six petrol engine. Mated with a six-speed automatic transmission, the unit develops 210 kW and 400 N.m of torque. It’s a very smooth unit, helped by the transmission’s silky shifts, and applies its power in a progressive, fuss-free manner. Prod the accelerator and it responds smartly with a surprising turn of pace and an almost Bavarian snarl.
Given this car’s Freelander underpinnings, it handles the bends with consummate ease and remains neutral under hard cornering. This is aided by a wieldy helm that possesses a good amount of feel (for an SUV) but is not overly heavy. The ride is supple and composed, only becoming a unsettled over rough road surfaces. Those Freelander roots also mean that despite this car’s “city slicker” appearance, it can turn in a respectable performance off road.
Being a Volvo, the XC60 is chock-full of innovative safety features, the most noteworthy of which is dubbed “City Safety”. This system utilizes radar mounted in the rear-view mirror housing that monitors the traffic in front and will apply the brakes should a low-speed collision look likely. Needless to say, I didn’t entrust the well-being of the test car to this system, but it’s a feature that could save one some embarrassment while cruising Camps Bay to check out the… um… scenery. The only gripe I had with the system, along with the lane-departure warning, is the wealth of invasive chimes, bongs, and flashing red lights on the lower windshield. Although startling at first, the aforementioned sound- and light show can be toned down via facia-mounted controls.
At R515 000, the 3,0T is not cheap. It is very stylish, comfortable, and competent, both off- and on-road. In these respects Volvo has produced a very appealing car that could well herald a change in people’s perception of the brand being solid, safe, yet uninspiring. Here’s hoping Volvo can weather its current financial situation and bring out more models with the virtues of the XC60.
A road test of the XC60 3,0T will appear in an upcoming issue of CAR magazine